Briefing Paper August 2002
Palestine’s War of Independence
Once again, it is impossible to relate the occupation experience in all its stark reality and brutality. Essentially the Palestinians under occupation are being starved, shot at, shot dead, bombed, humiliated and deprived of any shred of humanity by an occupier determined to impose its will.
The following is composed of quotes, observations plus an extract from one journal which, it is hoped, will convey the situation
“It is impossible enumerate the toll of daily killing, injury, arrest and destruction chalked up by the Zionist war machinery that has transformed Palestinian life into a form of death, and the contrasting Palestinian vision of resistance that posits death as a form of life. It is sufficient to observe throughout the West Bank, women sifting through the rotten fruit and vegetables in the market when curfew is lifted, or the sense of alienation in the faces of the Palestinians when they watch international solidarity activists try and mobilise a pitiful demonstration against the curfew, to know that the Palestinians feel exhausted and leaderless”
Between the Lines, August 2002
If you wish to colonise a land in which people are already living, you must provide a garrison for the land, or find a benefactor who will maintain the garrison on your behalf . . . Zionism is a colonising adventure and, therefore, it stands or falls on the question of armed forces.
The Iron Law
(an essay) Vladimir Jabotinsky (1925)
“but Washington’s new policy position will only add to the despair that drives violent resistance” “Palestinian confidence in Yasser Arafat has plummeted in recent months and reform of the PA was a popular sentiment in the West
Bank and Gaza long before it became fashionable in Washington and Tel Aviv. But it is Arafat’s failure to resist the Israeli reoccupation that drives this sentiment. After ten years of US mediation, Palestinians have little faith in the broker and little faith in the deal” “Bush has played directly into the hands of those on both sides willing to employ violence in pursuit of their goals and no one is more certain to take advantage of this than Ariel Sharon.”
“Washington, in a shameless and patronising exhibition, is debating whether the Palestinians are ‘ready’ and ‘deserving’ of what surely cannot be termed freedom, but rather amounts to some grotesque and inferior substitute for a state.” “Washington…..placed all on the onus on the Palestinians to prove that they deserve to see an end to Israeli occupation.” Bush put no conditions on Israel. He effectively ordered the Arab states to exert pressure on the Palestinians, to end support for the intifada and the PLO or risk being targeted as “supporters of terrorism.”
“The very day George Tenet, head of the CIA was visiting Palestine to take care of Israel’s ‘security’ concerns, the Minister of Housing publicised tenders for the building of 957 housing units in the ‘67 Occupied Territories largely within ‘Greater Jerusalem’ .
Israeli ministers decided in principle, and in outright violation of international law (and the fundamental legal principle that the innocent cannot be held to account for the action of others), to expel families of suicide bombers from the West
Bank to the Gaza Strip. “Terror activists” were to be deported. It all pended the outcome of a “legal review.” Collective punishment the further became the norm when the demolition of houses of families of alleged “suicide bombers” was instituted.
Within Israel, a climate of growing intolerance towards anyone who questionesd official dogma was apparent. The publicly funded, court appointed defence lawyer of one “illegal sojourner” was criticised for having the nerve to question Israel’s absence of defined borderes. He had argued that his client could not be accused of “illegal sojourn in Israel” when Israeli law does not define the state’s borders, there being no clear demarcation between Israel and the occupied territories. His client could presumably “sojourn” in the latter without committing an offence.
Israeli opinion polls continued to show solid support for Sharon’s policy of reoccupying, the use of massive force against the Palestinians under occupation. There was a widespread cynicism over its effectiveness and a realisation that political negotiation is the only way to bring an end to the ever-increasing bloodshed.
Each Palestinian town, village and hamlet [are isolated] one from another and the West Bank’s two million Palestinians from their jobs, hospitals, lands and families
MEI 28 June 2002
“Israel has set out to crush the entire Palestinian society including its basic collective and individual infrastructures and turn them into human dust of desperate, submissive atomised individuals who will agree to US-Israeli dictates. At the same time, these policies aim at strengthening the institutionalisation of the Israeli version of an apartheid system…. with road blocks and permit systems for crossing from one locality to another”
“Israel has created a regime of separation and discrimination in the Occupied Territories. This regime enables the settlers to sustain separate planning institutions and two legal systems: a military system for the Palestinians and a civic system for the Israelis. The [Israeli] High Court grants this unique phenomenon legal approval, either by legitimising flawed actions of the government and the army or by refusing to interfere and thus prevent the harm done to Palestinians.”
These are dark times, getting darker, and no end is in sight.
Between the Lines, June 2002
“. . . the current situation fails to receive minimal international media coverage whose “conscience” seems saturated and disinterested in the fact that the simplest of daily functions including work, school, and healthcare are now luxuries at the occupation war-machinery’s disposal . . . there was little note of the fact that the UN World Food Programme announced on 21 May the largest ever emergency programme to help try and feed half a million Palestinians [out of 3 million in the West Bank and Gaza Strip] who suffer from malnutrition and who live between crushing poverty.”
(NB Independent agencies estimate that, of children under 5 years, 9.3% suffer from acute malnutrition and 12.5% suffer from chronic malnutrition. One in every ten women of child-bearing age are estimated to be anaemic)
“What once were negotiations on settlements or Jerusalem have now been rplaced with negotiations on permitting the entrance of flours or tomatoes to enter cities and villages. All this without one tangible act of protest voiced or implemented by the international community and the Arab regimes to prevent such transmorgification.”
“Israel seeks to keep activists on the run by ensuring the lack of any safe territorial haven, while actively working to rebuild and strengthen its collaborator network – a major purpose behind the wide-scale arrest campaigns of Palestinians between the age of 15 and 60 whenever the Israeli army invades a given city.”
Following the assassination of Salah Shehadeh (instrumental in building a “genuine military resistance wing with a political vision for Hamas in the Gaza Strip”) by the dropping of a 1 tonne bomb on an apartment block in the densely populated Gaza Strip (killing 9 young children in the process, injuring 140 and traumatising countless others), it was observed that “not one Israeli civilian was killed by the Palestinian resistance in the Gaza Strip. Nor did one suicide bombing take place within the Jewish state that originated from Gaza . . . Resistance was focused within the occupied
[Gaza] Strip of 1967, targeting the soldiers and colonisers of the occupation.”
It should also be added that in the days prior to this atrocity, meetings of the various factions along with the PNA (with full knowledge of the EU,US and Israel) had taken place to seek agreement to stop attacks within Israel. Needless to say, not only did this one act scupper the talks, it also precipitated further, lethal suicide bombings within Israel.
For the next comment, the following definitions – in common usage by the occupying forces – are essntial:
IDF definitions: “pressure cooker” – detonate a building with occupant still inside it
“neighbour procedure” – use a Palestinian civilian as a human shield
During the second week in August the occupation forces entred the West Bank village of Tubas searching for for a resistance fighter, Nasser Jerar. The decision was taken to adopt the neighbour procedure (already banned by the Israeli courts). Nineteen year old Nidal Abu-Muhsein was chosen, kitted out in a bullet proof vest, sent to the front door of the residence of Nasser Jerrar who, incidentally, had lost both legs and one arm in earlier clashes with the occupation forces.
Nidal was shot dead in a burst of gunfire (accounts differ as to the direction and source of the lethal shots). With this strategy failing, the occupation forces turned the residence into a pressure cooker with the only identifiable remains being a head and shoulder, found by the victim’s brother.
Sharon’s Game Plan?
“This entails reoccupying the West Bank and Gaza Strip in order to stay there for about a year, a period which is needed for liquidating any resistance and breaking the spirit of the people, to increase the number of settlements, pave more bypass roads, establish buffer zones and find alternative leadership.”
Work on the “fence” – a system of barriers, sensors, roads, aerial and ground controls running the length of the West
Bank’s Green Line – which will curve eastwards to include settlements and westward to exclude densely populated
Palestinian areas started on June 16th. Already 80 square kilometeres of mainly rich Palestinian farmland, between Jenin and Tulkarm, had been confiscated for the purpose. Beyond this fence lie Israeli settlements whose jurisdiction now covers 43% of all West Bank territory (with 39% uninhabited but denied for future Palestinian development – according to a study by the Israeli human rights body, Betselem). A further 20% of the West Bank has been declared “state land” by Israel and therefore also off-limits to Palestinians.
In the remaining approximate 40% of the West Bank, once under the the civilian and security control of the Palestinian Authority, there are 8 cantons or “security zones”, 120 checkpoints manned by the occupation forces and 220 military enclaves.
Increasingly, the notion of “transfer” or ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land is gaining respectability within Israel. Whereas previously, it was always confined to the more fringe elements in Israeli politics and society( although “transfer” is well founded in Zionism policy and practice) more and more it is being discussed and advocated openly.
This racist strategy was recently advocated by one US politician.
In tandem with this development is the advocating, by some Israelis, of the US launching a war on Iraq. A number of commentators have made the point that should such a war be launched, Sharon is more than ready to use opportunity to expel sections of the Palestinian population, while a preoccupied international community would be even less inclined than usual to do anything to assist the Palestinians.
During August, Fatah political leader, Marwan Barghouti, was brought before an Israeli court charged with a variety of offences including the inevitable charge of “terrorism”. Barghouti is regarded by many as a possible successor to Yasser Arafat. His earlier arrest by the occupation forces in, Area A (land under total control of the Palestinian Authority) was a total breach of the Oslo Accords. During his brief appearance, the articulate Barghouti who is fluent in Arabic, Hebrew and English, used the occasion to inform the gathering media that peace is the only item on his agenda , with the ending of the occupation the solution.
His trial, should it go ahead, promises to be one with both Barghouti and the State of Israel in the dock. Already Nelson Mandela has indicated interest in attending.
for your information The Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament will consider a petition submitted by SfoP on behalf of its members on 8th October 2002 at 10am in Committee Room 2. The Parliament will be asked to consider offering advice and training to those involved in running the Palestinian legislature and institutions; offering advice and training in communicating the proceedings of the Palestinian Legislative Council to the Palestinian nation. Members of the public can book a seat by contacting the Information Desk at 0131 348 5000View all →